Right off the bat, I’m going to warn you that this review is heavily Captain Tsubasa-based. And I feel kinda bad about that, but also there’s so much to be gained from analysing Sarazanmai in comparison with the series. So much so that I would be tempted to call the first few arcs of Captain Tsubasa required reading for properly enjoying Sarazanmai. So pick up the manga for a bit if you have time.

I said towards the start of this show that if you were to take the three protagonists as Captain Tsubasa characters, Kazuki would be Tsubasa, Enta would be Misaki, and Toi would be Hyuga. Now, though, I realise that Enta just wishes that were true, because Toi is actually Misaki. Kazuki and Toi are the Golden Duo. Enta is Manabu Ookawa, that fucking loser kid with the glasses who becomes a literal cheerleader after the first arc because he sucked too much at football. No but actually this was a pretty redeeming episode for Enta, I hope he’s not actually dead for real. I guess there’s no way he can be or they won’t be able to Sarazanmai for the rest of the series.

But anyway, back to my Captain Tsubasa-centred analysis of this episode. Okay, hear me out on this: I honest to god think that Enta’s character might have been partially based on Manabu Ookawa, one of the smaller characters. For starters, and this is kind of a reach, but their character designs do look pretty similar:

My current theory is this: Enta is the result of Ikuhara taking Manabu, a minor figure we know almost nothing about, and fleshing him out using the little information about him that the Captain Tsubasa series gives us as a base. Manabu is not the most attention-grabbing character at a glance; he barely says 10 sentences throughout all the arcs he’s in combined. If you think about it, though, he occupies a fairly interesting position in the Captain Tsubasa universe: he is, perhaps (arguably alongside Ishizaki), the perfect embodiment of the blurry line between friend and fan that affects almost all of Tsubasa’s relationships. As a member of Tsubasa’s first school football team, before the Nationals teams have been put together, he starts off, ostensibly, as his equal. I mean not really at all because it’s Tsubasa, but their relationship is one of teammates. And then he doesn’t make the cut for the Nationals team, and he joins Sanae as part of the cheerleading team. He makes the jump from teammate, friend, to fan. I’m sure Tsubasa would still call Manabu a friend, but the two rarely interact for the rest of the series, and yet Manabu’s life is now more visibly dedicated to Tsubasa than ever.

I see a lot of parallels to this in Kazuki and Enta’s relationship. In a way, perhaps Enta is what Manabu might have become if he had been good enough to continue with football. If that’s the case, maybe it would have been better if he’d accepted his fate as second best and watched Kazuki from a distance (at the very least, he wouldn’t have been shot). He and Kazuki on the surface are equals, best friends even. But as long as Enta continues to put Kazuki on a pedestal, they will never be true equals (an aside to this: this episode showed that Enta’s phone case has a no. 10 jersey on it: Tsubasa’s number. If one takes Kazuki as Tsubasa, this further emphasises the hero worship). He lets his jealousy and feelings of inadequacy consume him, making himself look small, petty, and generally fucking crazy, and he eventually drives Kazuki away, towards Toi, the true second half of the Golden Duo. And also he gets punched in the face.

Anyway, that brings us to the “Toi as Misaki” section of this rant! Just as Enta can be considered a reworked, exaggerated version of Manabu, Toi can be considered a darker, edgier Misaki, with a negligent brother instead of a negligent father. I might hang back from a full-blown analysis on that for now because I feel like there’s a lot more material to come, but I would like to talk a little bit about some of the events of this episode with this comparison in mind.

One of the big reveals of the episode was the fact that Baby Toi gave Baby Kazuki his precious micanga before leaving the area, showing that the two had known each other before. Toi’s moving about seems like a pretty clear reference to Misaki and his father’s nomadic lifestyle. However, unlike Captain Tsubasa, Sarazanmai seeks to fully explore the effects of this both on Toi himself and on the people he’s leaving. In Captain Tsubasa, Misaki is forced to move every few months whenever his artist dad hears about another place what might need a picture painted of it. And Misaki is sad about this, of course, but considering what a young child he is, he really seems to be taking it all in stride. I always found this interesting, not just because it’s an awful lot of stress and upheaval for a child to endure, but because despite the fact that they never explicitly examine the impact this might be having on Misaki’s psyche, the show seems to be giving you little hints that he might not really be okay at all. For example, there’s the fact that he ghosted his Japanese friends once he moved away, including his one true love Tsubasa (and I’m not saying this is canon, but I am going to draw your attention to the fact that along with Wakabayashi, Adult Misaki is the one of the few main male characters without a girlfriend or wife). Why did he do that unless he couldn’t bring himself to reach out to them for some reason? His friends don’t have his address, he’s the only one who can establish contact. I’d always wondered, and this question isn’t really satisfactorily answered in Captain Tsubasa (or at least not in the anime adaptations). This episode makes me think that maybe Ikuhara was bothered by that as well. I almost feel like Toi’s current arc is an alternate universe re-enactment of Misaki’s departure, using the event as an exercise for exploring what Ikuhara thinks his psyche might look like at this moment: torn between family, friends, and possibly love. I’m not sure how it’s going to play out and I’m wary of making predictions, but I’m very excited to keep on watching this plot.

Of course, I don’t mean to suggest that Toi is only Misaki and Enta is only Manabu. I think Sarazanmai is a wonderful show in its own right, and its characters stand up on their own merits. Having said that, I do think the Captain Tsubasa influence is more than just a few references here and there, and I think it is beneficial to look at the two series in tandem.

Kazuki was being a self-absorbed ass this episode and that’s why he’s like Tsubasa.

Anyway, all that to say, I’m looking forward to having more Toi drama to overanalyse next episode! And I guess more Kappa/Otter War developments. And maybe they’ll get around to resurrecting Enta at some point, eh? Who knows. I hope mostly Toi drama though. ‘Til then!